The Namibian (Windhoek)

Namibia: On the Domestic Front

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They are appointed to various key portfolios; security guard, cleaner, child minder or kindergarten teacher, gardener, relationship councilor, messenger, chef and sometimes even substitute wife.

We trust them with our houses and our precious possessions. They raise our children while we chase careers and money. They cook our food and keep our houses clean. hell, they even look after our dogs. They probably know more about us than the National Uninteligence Service would ever know (despite multi-million dollar phone tapping equipment) because they wash our bed sheets and underwear and they see the cash slips they find in our pockets.

They wake up when the world is still quiet and dark. From their sea of smouldering shacks on the periphery of the city and society they leave their houses, their families, their lives and troubles to come spit and polish and paint over the cracks in ours to strengthen the illusion that all is well.

They brave all manner of questionable transport services this sprawling little metropolis can throw at them just so they can tog be on time otherwise madam will be pissed off again. And no one wants to start your day with a petulant boss?

We refer to them in all kinds of comical and derogatory names like maid (sometimes still even meit), ousie, die kneg, die veetjie, the domestic, the domestic engineer.

We offer them no training but expect the world from them.

I've heard of people who have medical aid for their dogs but not for Rebekka. Some would pay good money for a visit to the vet for their dogs but wouldn't even give Rebekka N$16 for Katutura hospital. Sy pay mos!

We pay them a crap salary. Tell me, what would you do with less than N$1 000 a month? Oh, of course she gets the leftovers from a week ago. Forgive me if I don't see that as a fringe benefit. I'm sure half of Windhoek's

domestic workers aren't even registered with Social Security. Because we are too cheap to pay the lousy less than N$54

a month we deny them a half decent burial and we just replace them when they fall pregnant since "there are so many people out there looking for a job".

Some dishcloths in some households feel like prostitutes. They've been handled by more domestic workers this year than a Tal Street working girl had suitors.

We entrust these guys with so much but pay them so little. And then we still bitch non-stop for a month when they redistribute a cup of sugar.

That domestic workers are some of the most marginalised citizens and workers is a fact. however, they still do not have a minimum wage and the union

who apparently represents them is about as dynamic as a three day old turd behind a bush in the veld.

When we elected our own people into power we expected they act on the biggest issues, help the most downtrodden and make and enforce laws to protect the most vulnerable.

Twenty-three years later our mothers and sisters, who have no other option but to sweep the floors of those better off than themselves, still suffer the indignity of a slave wage.

Again, the servants we entrusted with our precious votes finished all the food in the fridge, skinnered with the neighbours about our dark secrets and are now taking a nap on the easy chair in front of the TV while 'Generations' is on full blast and both the door and gates are open.

Needless to say... the dishes are pilling up in the kitchen and someone awarded the cockroaches the freedom of the house.

Wake up!

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